The following is an excerpt from this week's Pipeline Podcast, in which Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis are joined by Sam Geaney, the Padres' director of player development, to discuss San Diego's farm system. To listen to the show in its entirety, visit the MLB Pipeline Podcast page.Jonathan Mayo: I
The following is an excerpt from this week's Pipeline Podcast, in which Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis are joined by Sam Geaney, the Padres' director of player development, to discuss San Diego's farm system. To listen to the show in its entirety, visit the MLB Pipeline Podcast page.
Jonathan Mayo: I wanted to ask you just a little bit about the process and the change that the organization has gone through. When A.J. Preller first came in, he kind of tried to go all-in, to put a winning team at the Major League level on the field. That didn't work, obviously, up to his expectations. I think what's been so amazing is how quickly the reset button has switched -- to go from reset, rebuild, to having young guys funnel up to the big leagues and make the team kind of fun and competitive, to being on the brink of being a really competitive team with this huge wave of talent coming. I was wondering, just from your vantage point, have you marveled at all -- knowing there's still work to be done and all that -- that you've been able to flip things around in such a quick way?
Sam Geaney: Yes, I think you described it quite well. Kind of looking back, A.J.'s first full season was in 2015, a lot of us here on the development side and on the scouting side, this would kind of serve as entering our fourth season here. And I think the way you described the speed at which the system has filled up in the last couple of years is quite honestly a testament to the baseball operations staff, obviously led by A.J.
But I think it's fun when you start thinking about the makeup of our Top 10, 15, 30 -- however many prospects you want to look at -- just kind of the diversity of where they come from and their backgrounds, and really how they were acquired in a variety of different ways.
If you look at the professional scouting department that's led by Pete DeYoung, you obviously look at Fernando Tatis Jr. and that trade that we consummated a couple of years ago. You look at the amateur draft staff headed by Mark Conner, and it's MacKenzie Gore or Cal Quantrill, that group. As well as now you're starting to see a lot of our young international players, that shows a lot of the hard work that Chris Kemp in the international department put together. So I think that it's really cool to see how that group was assembled and all the various ways in which you can acquire and scout and get players into your system, and how it's really been a credit to everyone in the organization.
You guys asked about the timeline, what is interesting this year and what is going to be fun -- we're not there yet, but starting with this Major League camp, we are gonna get to see our first wave of this group of young players starting to be in Major League camp and perhaps sooner rather than later be real options for [Padres manager] Andy [Green] and his Major League staff. With Tatis, he'll be in camp this year definitely. Luis Urias, who was in big league camp last year. On the pitching side, Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Jacob Nix, Joey Lucchesi. You start seeing kind of that first group, and then even the group behind those guys we can even start talking about a little as well.
But almost to go back a little to your first question about appreciating and enjoying it, I will say for all of us on the development side, I think we do all have an awareness of what a special group of talent has been assembled, and with that, what responsibility comes with doing the absolute best to develop those guys. Because we are looking at what perhaps could be a group of players that you don't get a chance to work with many times in a baseball career.
Jim Callis: Sam, what are some of the -- not that anything's necessarily locked in stone -- but the development plans for some of the top prospects in the system? Tatis jumped from Class A to Double-A at the end of last season and looked fine, looked like he belonged at age 18. Will he go back to Double-A to begin the year? Will Luis Urias see more time at short or second base, or kind of divide the time between the two? And I think I wind up talking about MacKenzie Gore on just about every podcast we do because I'm such a huge MacKenzie Gore fan -- what is the plan with him? And what difficulties are there, if MacKenzie Gore is as good as he appears to be, with trying to not move a young guy too fast, but also not hold him back at the same time?
Geaney: Those are all great questions, and obviously nothing is set in stone as we sit here in early February. But with those three guys in particular -- I had a chance to see a fair amount of Fernando. I think I saw his first game last year in Double-A, and I saw him on that playoff run in San Antonio. And I think it's a very good question. My instinct was, as you alluded to, Jim, was that the level where he was at where he finished the year -- in Double-A, and then obviously a nice stint in the Dominican Winter League -- it was a nice blend of challenging him and also a level where we can definitely see him having some success.
I think with all of our guys, you always hope to move them as aggressively as you can, while laying some foundation for them to have some success. And obviously he made a very strong impression at that level, and as I alluded to, it definitely looked right with him out on the field playing at the Double-A level at 18 years old.
With Luis, obviously a year ago, as I mentioned, was entering his first big league camp and we kind of exposed him a little at shortstop and he had a chance to play there a lot throughout the season. He got a lot more comfortable, I would say, toward the second half of the season. And then we promoted Javier Guerra, and then Fernando Tatis ended up there toward the end of the season. I think Luis made tremendous strides, and I think that's gonna be something we continue to expose him to -- both of those positions, on both sides of second base -- as we go forward.
Lastly, with MacKenzie, I think you very much raised a point that's in our mind -- as far as the best way to develop such a young talent like MacKenzie, who's made such a strong impression on us in the less than a year we've had him. You very much hit it, in that we need to be cognizant of crafting a plan for him, just as I said with Fernando, that challenges him and also prepares him hopefully for a really, really long and successful career with the Padres.
I think that everyone has made a lot of MacKenzie's aptitude, his emotional maturity and all of those things, as well as his physical skills. But he's actually thrown a fair amount -- in a very positive way. So I think as we look forward, between his high school season last year and what we were able to put on after he signed with us, there's actually a pretty good base going into this year. Obviously the rigors of professional baseball will present challenges, but I definitely think MacKenzie is gonna be in a position -- because of the offseason he's had as well as how much he's thrown in the past -- to hopefully move as quickly as his talent will allow him too.
Mayo: Sam, I wanted to ask specifically about Cal Quantrill. I think if someone had told you that he'd finish his first full season in Double-A, given how little he had pitched over the previous couple of years, I'm sure you would have signed on the dotted line. Now, I know, knowing him as well as you do now, that maybe it wasn't that big of a surprise. But how pleased are you guys with the progress that he made, how well he threw given that it was his first full year of pro ball and really his first full year of pitching since, what, 2015? 2014? It had been a while since he had amassed any amount of innings, so I have to imagine that you have to be happy and excited to see what comes next for him as an encore.
Geaney: Definitely. I think you nailed it. For a guy that missed basically all of '15 -- I think he threw a little at the start of that season and then had the surgery -- I think the goals were probably a little different with Cal in his first full season. I think in 2015 after we drafted him, he threw about 35 innings and definitely felt good, and I think the main thing was -- and not in a negative way -- just getting him through that. Making sure he felt great from a health standpoint, so that he was prepared for that first full season. But even going back to 2015, he did some things that obviously reflect why he's so highly regarded. He threw a lot of strikes, he missed a lot of bats, and that carried over this year.
As you guys know, it's a very intriguing arsenal, with a fastball that's gotten better and better over the last couple of years, a really, really good changeup and two breaking balls that he can use. I think one of the most impressive things about Cal is the competitor that he is, and the desire and the want. As we start thinking about hopefully what the makeup of a really good Padres Major League club is here in the next few years, I think Cal's competitiveness as well as his talent give him a really, really good chance to be a part of that. Kind of as a testament to that, he's had a tremendous offseason. He spent all of his offseason in San Diego working out, he gained weight, to really build off of what was a very successful first season. I know he's looking forward to 2018, as we are with him.